Background
Marketing, Food service 23 January 2014

Colourful Perupas
for the first time
in Dutch restaurants

Forgotten vegetables are popular in the better restaurants. These gifts from Mother Nature offer chefs the opportunity to surprise their guests with original tastes. In line with this trend, Dutch fresh fruit and vegetable supplier Rungis from Barendrecht and HZPC are bringing the ancient potato varieties from the Andes back on to the plate. Very healthy, surprisingly tasty and – because of their special colours – a feast for the eye too.

Chefs are always looking for ways to keep on surprising their customers. There's a strong drive to pick up new trends, says Niels van den Berg, who is responsible for Communication & Trends at Rungis and is also an SVH MasterChef (Dutch Guild of MasterChefs). ‘Many chefs travel and communicate with colleagues at an international level’, adds Gert Jan Zonneveld Piek, Managing Director and, together with his wife, owner of Rungis. ‘We’re being asked, for example, to go and look for "that one blue potato with a so-and-so taste”. Requests like that are a joy for freaks like us. The hotel and restaurant industry needs to keep on moving forwards, always. And we, as chefs, like to help and I believe that we are in the vanguard.’

Rungis

Rungis is a fresh-food specialist for the hotel and restaurant industry that supplies over 4000 kinds of potatoes, vegetables, fruits, mushrooms and herbs. But also fresh juices ready-to-cook cut vegetables, hand-peeled potatoes, fruit salads and raw food are in our product range. Rungis calls itself a greengrocer with a passion for the trade and a focus on taste.

Trends in potatoes

‘When we started working with Rungis, 125 seasons ago, we had 8 different potato varieties in our product range. Nowadays, that’s almost 80. We select the potatoes on taste accents and advise chefs about their various uses’, says Gert Jan Zonneveld Piek. Niels van den Berg: ‘It’s just like wines: a sommelier chooses a wine that goes well with a dish. You can also do this now with potatoes: crumbly or floury, earthy, nutty, or fresh. But being able to make choices in this area, that’s what’s really new.’

“A sommelier chooses a wine that goes well with a dish. You can also do this now with potatoes.”

Perupas

‘The Perupas variety which we market together with HZPC has become really popular with the chefs. It offers many possibilities through variation in taste, colour and use. The culinary applications are countless, for example, purple-white crisps, very creamy yellow-orange potato purée and magenta-coloured potato ‘poffertjes’ (tiny pancakes). We recommend cooking options for the Perupas: wedges, Julienne, sticks, slices, mixed. This makes them easy to use’, says Niels van den Berg.

He continues: ‘Our experience has shown that these types of trends usually start in the better restaurants. A new product, however, needs more than one season to take root. It must become part of the thinking and the buying patterns of the chefs. The ‘risk’ of success is that they want to win quickly and start introducing them into the supermarkets. What happens then is that the restaurants lose interest. That’s how it went with quinoa, for example. There’s no chef now who would dare put that on the menu’. 'If you act that way, you turn it into a hype and go for short-term profit’, is also Gert Jan Zonneveld Piek’s opinion. ‘The risk is then that customers lose interest after a while. We prefer to have more patience and go for the long term.’

“If you see what they’re doing with potatoes in Peru, that’s very promising for the restaurants.”

Cooperation

‘We’re quite proud of the Perupas and what our cooperation with HZPC has brought us in a short period of time’, says Gert Jan Zonneveld Piek. ‘There really is a click and the good thing is that we both have faith in each other’s specialism. We are convinced that our cooperation will bring us even more benefit in the coming years. About 4 years ago, I went to Peru. If you see what they’re doing there with potatoes, that’s very promising for the restaurants.’

Rungis and its 4 seasons

‘Rungis started 125 seasons ago, but we actually distinguish 5 seasons in a year’, laughs Gert Jan Zonneveld Piek. ‘The early and the late summer are very different in respect of fresh products.’ Last year, Rungis celebrated its 25th anniversary with an inspirational book about the 5 seasons. ‘To inspire chefs’, says Niels van den Berg. ‘Where my wife Francis and I started a greengrocer’s shop together 25 years ago, and we now have 100 employees. Many specialisms, passion and trade devotees, that’s what makes Rungis what it is’, says Gert Jan Zonneveld Piek.

Niels van den Berg continues: ‘We supply to chefs of restaurants but also to institutional kitchens. To a wide range of catering services really. That’s why we have such a good and wide product range. We sell exclusive products, but also ordinary ones such as lettuce at a sharp price.’

‘Greengrocery is a classic trade’, says Gert Jan Zonneveld Piek. ‘Two hundred years ago, a greengrocer might have had only 3 products; today, we have 4000 products and in 2 years' time most probably 5000. Our view is that if you do your work as a greengrocer well, you might discover 50% of what the world has on offer. As we are working very hard on this, with a good team, we think that we might discover 70%. But we have to accept that we will never get to 100%. We're therefore convinced that we’ll never be finished, but that we’ll always be able to bring new products to the market.’

Food trends according to MasterChef Niels van den Berg

‘Personally, I don’t “connect” to all those trends’, says Niels van den Berg. ‘It’s often rather random. A major trend I see is that the price/quality ratio in restaurants is under pressure due to economic developments. Restaurants can’t do a great deal about that. They often approach it in a positive way by cooking with fewer ingredients. Where a dish often used to be prepared with more than 12 ingredients, the chef now only uses 5. It’s more efficient and the customer seems to appreciate less-complex dishes. What this means, though, is that the quality of the products is becoming increasingly important. Moreover, it’s more difficult to prepare a really good dish with fewer ingredients. This calls for more professional skill.

You often hear about “Dutch Cuisine” these days. This means that more regional products are being used and more vegetables and fruit instead of meat and fish. We also endorse those principles from the socially-responsible entrepreneurship point of view. But 'local’ is better is not always the case. For example, we consciously choose to get our shiitakes from Portugal. They are sustainably grown instead of in heated sheds as happens in the Netherlands. For the same reason, we import products from Japan. Products that are really different or of better quality. That’s what we offer as an alternative. In the end, it is – of course – the chef who decides what products he wants to use.’

HZPC & Perupas

The cooperation between Rungis and HZPC provides an innovative range of special ancient potato variety tastes and colours. For this, HZPC was able to use the genetic source material of the indigenous farmers from Lima. In collaboration with The International Potato Centre (CIP) in Lima, HZPC supports a group of farmers in Peru. These farmers work very hard to maintain the genetic variation of the potato varieties.

Perupas varieties

The 'Magenta Love’ has a lovely old-rose colour, a light but firm taste structure and a subtle bitter undertone. The colour of ‘Double Fun’ is purple and white. The taste of these reasonably firm potatoes is somewhat creamy and neutral. The ‘Violet Queen’, ‘Blue Star’, ‘Violetta’ and ‘Anya’ all have their own colour and taste.

Nominated for the Dutch Marketing Award

The Perupas potatoes of HZPC have been nominated by NIMA (Dutch Marketing Institute) for the 2015 Dutch Marketing Awards in the Marketing Launch category. NIMA gives an award to the 'launch of the year’, a producer or product that knows how to inspire with a distinctive introduction in the Dutch market with demonstrably good start results. The Perupas is one of the six candidates. The winner will be made known on 19 March 2015.